BY John Williams, (c)2020.

As someone who has listened to more film music than he cares to remember and written more words on the subject than is probably healthy, certain thoughts and opinions seem to surface very quickly.   Now I know my opinion is certainly  not any more worthy than yours, and music being the  very being it is,  a subjective  art,  one piece of music heard by say, one hundred people will have one hundred different reactions. That is the way it is.   

But conversely having listened to so such music,  and as to borrow  from  Stanley Myers memorable and masterly OTLEY score, ” The Good, The Bad and the Simply Disgusting”, certain, shall we say priorities , certainly comes to mind.    There are composers who’s, own musical personality shines through whatever they do.  That doesn’t mean they don’t do what they set out to do and are more often than not, well paid for, it is just that is the way they write and that is it.   You may say that John Barry falls into that category, and it is true, he has a distinctive musical voice, but he has been known to vary it every now and then.  I was thinking of Bernard Herrmann and Maurice Jarre,  Two more widely diverse composers you couldn’t think of,   Herrmann, a superb composer no-one could deny, yet wasn’t it Lionel Newman who once said, “Herrmann, he always sounds the same to me and he can’t write a tune!” somewhat harsh but containing a grain of truth.   Maurice Jarre, multiple Oscar Winner, most composers would love to have half his awards and honours, but you can tell his music a mile off, even before his name comes up on the credits.  They score the film well, of course they do, but to me they score it from the outside; they bring their undeniable talents to the movie, but what you hear is what you get.

The other side of the coin is the composer who subjugates his style, personality, his musical traits, to serve the film first, write as much or as little music they feel it needs.  No musical wallpaper here.  To these elite band of composers, serving the film  is paramount above all, even it means, at the end, if you asked someone watching the film, what did you think of the music, they might say what music?.  That is not to say they can’t write good themes, memorable themes, but that is a secondary consideration. These, to me are the true artists in the undeniable art of film music.

I don’t know enough to comment on the current crop of composers here and the Stats. From the little I have heard; some can’t even write music.  though I have heard some good music from France, and believe it not, Russia and the Eastern Europe, but in the UK. Film and Television music has vanished.

More so then to savour the composers that serve us well, and composers who put the needs of the film first. I think with genuine admiration of the music of  Nic Bicat, who’s collaborations with Clive Donner and Philip Ridley come to mind, but, to me  there is only one who epitomises all what I have been trying to say, and that composer is Richard Hartley.

I may be totally wrong here but I think the first film I saw scored by Richard was one of Rank’s attempts in the late 70s to enter the world of film production once more, a remake of THE LADY VANISHES  but this time in wide screen and in colour.   The principal theme used over the credits was composed by the wonderful Les Reed, and the theme was used a musical device later in the film, but, I am getting ahead of myself here. The obvious question most interviewers ask Film Composers , and I am no exception, for after all, unless you are  like Jerry Goldsmith and born in LA , most composers , don’t start their career writing for the Cinema, so how did it all start?

” In the early 1960s there was a film review programme on the radio and they played clips from new films, s one would hear dialogue but they were often underscored, that was my first introduction to the art of film music.  I started piano lessons at the age of 5 and studied music theory then later orchestration and composition when I lived in Paris in 1966. My first film was a documentary about Gerard Manley Hopkins followed by one about Achille Island, they were both student films directed by a friend of mine. In the early 1970s I did orchestrations for Chappell’s the publishers and overdubbed strings on Reggae Records for Trojan then met Jim Sharman who hired me to write music for a play written by Sam Shepard that he was directing at the Royal Court. He also directed “The Rocky Horror Show” and that is how it all began.”

I would have the thought the main breakthrough came with Joe Losey, though I suspect he had very firm ideas on the use of music in his films? 

“My first film with Joe was Brecht’s “Galileo” which Joe had directed on Broadway with Charles Laughton. It was part of a series of plays that were filmed for The American Film Theatre, I ‘d recently returned from Sydney where I had been the Musical Director for a production of The Threepenny Opera in the opening season at the Sydney Opera  House. I orchestrated Han’s Eisler’s songs and wrote the incidental music.  Joe was very happy with my work and hired me for his next film “The Romantic Englishwoman”. He told me the story of “The Go-Between”!   Joe hated the way Hollywood films were scored but mostly left the spotting and discussions about the music to me and his long time editor. Reggie Beck”

I think we must be near THE LADY VANISHES now.  I personally enjoyed   it far more than Hitchcock’s somewhat over-rated movie, and this had the advantages of a all star cast, and filmed on location.  The only thing that spoilt it for me was Cybill Shepherds well over the top heroine, but it is a flaw I can well overlook.   I wondered if there was ever a soundtrack LP envisaged, as one did appear for Ed Welch’s THE 39 STEPS.?

“My music contractor worked with Philip Martell on many Hammer films and he made the introduction. The Les Reed music was already in place but I fitted it to the film and Bob Stewart and I orchestrated it. A soundtrack was mentioned but never materialized”

There was feeling around that time that you didn’t do many movies, am I right?

” Yes that is right. I was producing records for a while and also a Musical at the Royal Court (Theatre) which I am afraid wasn’t a success.  During that period I scored THE LADY VANISHES for Hammer and the next film was BAD TIMING for Nic Roeg.  I knew Jeremy Thomas (the Producer) from years ago, when he was a Editor.   Nic always paid the most unbelievable attention to detail, even for the smallest things. He had heard a particular piece of music in a cutting room somewhere and asked me if I knew what it was. Funnily enough, I knew it was a French Bass player called Francois Rabat, who has a unusual style of playing the Double Bass, anyway we found him, recorded this piece that Nic had heard, and then it had to be remixed, etc. and eventually what had started out as a two-day job went on for months!

I think Nic was the first Director I worked with who really loved music and so was Bernardo Bertolucci.  They both held the view that it was part of the fabric of Cinema”  On BAD TIMING, the brief was to re-record the Pachelbel Canon and a Beethoven Overture, but it didn’t end there  and there and three months later I was still working on the film. I think we re-recorded one short cue 3 times before Nic was happy. On STEALING BEAUTY, there was contemporary soundtrack but Bernardo also wanted a composed film score so that was a much easier to film to work on.

Then I did a film called BAD BLOOD. It was originally intended for the Cinema and partly financed by Southern TV.   SHOCK TREATMENT at the time was going to be a sequel to THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.   but it really ended up a mess!   The script was continually being changed and we had to adapt the songs to the new script as we went along.  The original was a total Hammer horror sequel, with Frankenstein rising from the grave and that sort of thing!  I don’t think Fox fully realized what movie genre it basically was. I think they wanted something else – something different”

I am not sure if we are in sequence here, but it doesn’t really matter.  Then there was SHEENA!

“Ah yes SHEENA !  I had been in France doing a film with Joe Losey – in fact, I had done two with him- one was DON GIOVANNI and I went to help him mix the music. It really needed a lot of technical work to sort it out and in fact I spent some three months on it.   Joe then did a film that didn’t come out here called LA TRUITE and the Producer was doing this SHEENA film with John Guillermin   The main theme for SHEENA was a demo I had written in the late 1970s for a music library company but they rejected it, then it was to be the B side of Torvill and Dean’s BOLERO single. 

John Guillermin  wanted to hear some of my music , so I gave him a cassette, but for some reason or other I had left on this Torvill and Dean B side.  They just loved it and got Columbia to buy it, and then John got me to do the rest.   First they flew me out to Kenya to play tunes on a piano, and then to Guinea to record Ballet African.  I very nearly ended up in jail as I had no visa – I just bluffed my way in – The film had to be finished by a certain date so they would dub two reels, I’d write the music and it went on like that. Sometimes I’d have only have 3 minutes of music and we would have a orchestra booked in all day!  There were long sequences, ten-minute cues, travelogues long shots of flamingoes – no plot!  I remember John sending me the script and saying, “You won’t understand it – this is being made for American audiences. The record sold well though! SHEENA, has endured because I think it’s referenced in the Best of the Worst Film category.  It was my first film using synthesizers. On some cues we had 23tracks of synths and 23 tracks of orchestra synched up using smpte code……. often a precarious venture”.

Richard has worked on many Films and Series for Television so it is difficult to know where to start, but how about the Mini Series KENNEDY with Martin Sheen and Blair Brown.

“I had a great time doing that. It was the first film I had worked with Jim Goddard. There were a number of gospel songs in the script and there were a lot of violent scenes in the fil , so instead of violins etc, we decided to play against it and we recorded Gospel Singers. It was too expensive to use Mahalia Jackson, but I had seen this Gospel picture called SAY AMEN, SOMEBODY and there was this woman in it with a absolutely incredible voice , not well known but we tracked her down. – she was a school teacher!  We went to this Baptist Church and in one weekend we recorded everything we required. I like doing things like that which need a lot of source music”   We also recorded the U.S. Marine Band playing Sousa Marches. KENNEDY was a joy and I worked on it for several months”

In 1985, Richard scored the Screen Two movie THE MACGUFFIN, obviously a tribute to Hitchcock, and as well as Charles Dance, there were marvellous cameos from Anna Massey and Ann Todd, both from earlier Hitchcock movies.   The principal theme I have never forgotten after all these years, and I am very curious about this one.   

“I borrowed from everybody for that one!  Jerry Goldsmith at the beginning with a bit of CHINATOWN and a bit of THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY in the middle. The Director was a Hitchcock devotee and there was a scene in a park with a dog, and there was a kind of comedy – thriller music that Herrmann was very good at writing. I am sure it wasn’t tongue in cheek but that was the way it came out, so that was the way he wanted it to come out.  Instead of borrowing the scene entirely, I took notes from it, and we had the sound of the dog as well. I think we mixed it down so it didn’t sound too obvious, we had  the two notes and the dog barking in the gap.. There was a bit of Rossini in the middle as well, and the Director also liked Pino Donaggio, a sort of over – the – top – Herrmann, so I think we had a bit of everyone in the film”   “There was one thing about THE MACGUFFIN when it was being dubbed. The Producer thought it was too loud, too long, too over the top. It was very popular, especially with younger people .It had that fast, almost American approach to film making”

Marvellous, marvellous movie which can still be viewed on You-tube.  Richard also worked for the same director again for HIGH TIDE.  this time going even further down the Hitchcock – and Herrmann route. Ian McShane comes out of Jail and travels down to the West Country to find out more about the people that got him into prison in the first place.  Here he encounters John Bird and Kika Markham. Very much a West Country noir!   If there was any downside, it was just the narration, just when all you wanted to hear was the music.

“Colin Bucksey (the Director) is a big fan of Hitchcock and I of Herrmann. We even recorded the score at Denham with Eric Tomlinson who had recorded several films with Herrmann. This was a piece of total self-indulgence but it worked with the film. I think Colin would have shot it in black and white if he had been allowed……….. and there was a lot of music”.

Back tracking somewhat, Richard worked on a major BBC series in the late 1970s that was extremely popular, so much so in fact that it is still available to watch on DVD, and that is PENMARRIC.

” I wrote the music for the first 4 episodes but had previous commitments, so I suggested Bob Stewart to the Producers, and he expanded my themes for the other episodes. The music budget was OK as it was the big Autumn costume drama for 1979. Given the time I would orchestrate myself but often that’s not possible.. I do however make very comprehensive sketches…… Bob Stewart in the early days and then John Bell, sadly both no longer with us”.  

There was also Patricia Hodge in JEMIMA SHORE INVESTIGATES somewhat later.

” I scored all the JEMINA SHORE episodes with al little re-imagining of Vivaldi for the Title music at the suggestion of producer Verity Lambert”

There was another Screen Two movie – amongst many – entitled THE IMPOSSIBLE SPY. 

 ” It was a very good film and very popular, winning the American Cable Award. It told the true story of a man who spied for Israel and at the same time was a member of the Syrian Cabinet.   Another film I did THE GOOD FATHER won the Italia Prize. There was no money on that one at all and we did it with just two guitars and a piano. That was with Mike Newell. Most of the films were low budget and on one I even subsidised the recording, but generally he lets me get on with it, play a few ideas, then finesse them in the studio…….if there was time!  .  On GREAT EXPECTATIONS, there was a reasonable budget but the Producers wanted to see/hear the score with the film so I had to supply orchestral simulations. I think he only asked me to change one cue”

TUMBLEDOWN with Colin Firth got Richard a nomination for his score,

 ” Richard Eyre is another director who loves music. He had used a piece of stirring music by William Walton over the titles to slightly ‘ape’ the war movies of the 1950s, two guys thrilled at the thought of going into battle, the film contrasts the brutalities of war with the equally callous treatment of British Solider’s who are injured serving their country and the way Robert Lawrence adjusted to his new disability. We couldn’t use the Walton music. Again, Richard wasn’t afraid of using music and we had a large orchestra by BBC standards”

If TUMBLEDOWN needed a English approach, so did CONSUMING PASSIONS and THE RECTOR’S WIFE. 

  “It was laid up with Holst. I love working with orchestras and on CONSUMING PASSIONS we had a very large orchestra. Both very English with quotations from Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Finzi. but all in the best possible taste!

It is only recently I came across a film Richard scored entitled VICTORY (1996) with William Defoe and based on a novel by Joseph Conrad.  I wasn’t too sure what to make of it, but stuck with it for obvious reasons, and was well rewarded with an excellent film that passed me by all those years ago.  The score works so well, but not in an outwardly spectacular way. 

” This was a Miramax co-production so the heavy hand of Harvey Weinstein and his ‘interest’ in music meant I was the third composer for the film. We recorded over 60 minutes of fairly complicated orchestral music in 4 sessions thanks to brilliant musicians and impeccable engineering by Chris Dibble at CTS in Wembley.  Every single cue had to be tempted up using synthesisers, then mixed with the film and sent to Miramax before they would sign off on the score, we received  final approval on the Saturday before we recorded on the following Monday. It was an intense 5 weeks working fourteen hour days but I was very happy with the score and consider it to be amongst the best I have written”

Towards the end of the 1990s, you would have seen Richard’s name on a number of film from the Hallmark Organisation, mainly remakes of classic stories, DON QUIXOTE, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and THE LION IN WINTER. It is a tribute to Richard’s scoring of the latter, that I never thought of the famed score for the earlier movie with the same name!  I wondered how these projects came about? 

  “They came through Dyson Lovell who approached me to score ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I’d never worked for him before but he said he’d looked at my credits and seen I had worked with many directors several times so he assumed I wouldn’t be a difficult person to work with!   Initially I had reservations about ALICE so they showed me around the Jim Henson workshop with all the different special effects they’d been working on, both Chris Thompson and Dyson were very committed to the project so I accepted”

DON QUIXOTE is just a wonderful film and score, and the middle of a very wet winter, it seems even more of a joy to watch. and whilst I have never been to Spain, just close your eyes and listen to the music and you would think you were there!   

 ” The Philharmonia Orchestra, Abbey Road Studio1 and a generous budget….. I was in heaven. Peter Yates the director pretty much left the music up to me, in fact he was on holiday when we recorded  but his son was the Editor and the only change we made was a triangle for a cymbal crash towards the end. Dyson Lovell was the producer and he trusted me, and I received an Emmy nominatio. It was a huge canvas to work with and a chance to compose a neo-romantic score”

Sadly a lot of BBC SCREEN TWO and BBC 1 equivalent remains unseen since their first showing, and many before the advent of VHS recorders. Thankfully there are many movies that Richard scored easily available on DVD and on occasion Blu Ray.  TALKING TO A STRANGER, HITLERS S.S.  ARMADILLO– the latter worth a look very strange and quirky later BBC production, the afore mentioned JEMINA SHORE, DON QUIXOTE, LION IN WINTER and superb USA Blu Ray of SHEENA which is a excellent print.   Another wonderful score can be heard in THE SECRET RAPTURE.  A very moving movie and the cast is just superb. The music is beyond belief. 

“It is a very sad story, originally a stage play. I worked very hard on this score , the music budget was minimal and the trumpet (the late great Derek Watkins)was recorded in the kitchen of my engineer friend Phil Chapman. There is a hint of the melodramatic scores of yester-year but underneath the orchestra are some very elaborate synthetic shapes. Thanks for the compliment”.

Oh yes, one more that I watched recently and shows so well how Richard merges his music into the, well, already mentioned the fabric of the film so it is almost another character. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS with a superb performance by Geoffrey Rush.   I thought it might be a difficult film to score?   

“It was although the Director had some firm ideas about what he wanted which always helps. The main difficulty was we were due to record in early January, I’d  tempted up all the cues and they had been synched up with the film but the head of HBO was on Christmas Holiday and no one wanted to sign off on the score before he did , so I had Abbey Road studio 2 and a orchestra on hold………..!  The score had one theme that is used in Seller’s relationship with his mother also quite a bit of  ‘source music’ that I composed and as his performance and personality continually changes from film to film , so does the music.”

To conclude I asked Richard about scoring here and abroad, and the current state of movie music?

“I like the European approach to a picture, and I suppose Morricone was the prime example of this. Some of the music is totally incongruous and may have nothing to do with what you are watching, but because he had a clever harmonic structure, it never quite moves when you think it is going to.  Jerry Goldsmith was one of the most consistent composers and he had a style all of his own.

Film music has evolved beyond recognition over the past 50 years. especially with the use of synthesizers and there is probably more music in films now than in the golden era of Hollywood. Some film composers are now deservedly celebrities and their scores are performed as concert pieces, there is a great interest in how they are composed and recorded and the list of musicians composing for film is ever expanding.   When you think back to Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ a score which to my mind was the first serious use of orchestral sound design, Goldsmith’s only electronic aid was the echoplex (which he used to great effect in ‘Patton’) but his atonal orchestral textures combined with a vast array of ethnic instruments and percussion can now be easily simulated in minutes using samples and synthesizers.

It only takes a second to get a good idea……….. It’s just getting that idea!     That good idea can take a while, I’d often sit at the piano and improvise. 

sometimes that nugget would emerge. If not, try, try again!”

I felt I must go back to my observations that Richard doesn’t like to make the music draw attention to itself, unless it needs to, perhaps over the Main Titles.  ” I’ve always tried to employ a minimalist approach to underscore even before it was fashionable and called ‘sound design’, some directors liked it, others wanted a more up front approach”

This then is Richard Hartley, a music man for all seasons.  A composer who scores what he sees, and perhaps more importantly, what you don’t see!

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed this article, and I hope you will investigate Richard’s music by listening to some of his recordings.  I most certainly recommend the following.

THE LION IN WINTER  Varese Sarabande  VSD-6571

ALICE IN WONDERLAND Varese Sarabande VSD-6021


PRINCESS CARABOO   Varese Sarabande  VSD-554.

A THOUSAND ACRES   Varese Sarabande  VSD-5870

DON QUIXOTE Varese Sarabande VSD-6142

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Metropolis  8781017

SHEENA Varese Sarabande  Club  VCL 1104. (very rare)

With thanks to Richard Hartley, for his time, courtesy, friendship and most importantly, his patience.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Peter Kent who passed away a few years back, and loved Richard’s music as much as I still do now.  I hope he would have approved though I think he might have said it more eloquently  

© 2020 John Williams.

SOUNdtrack supplement twenty nine.

Ok here we go once again it’s time for another look at the latest soundtrack releases and there are quite a few this time, whether they are all interesting or not is another matter, quantity does not always mean quality does it?. I thought maybe I would fit in just another soundtrack supplement before Christmas, but the way things are going it looks like maybe another two or three will be on the cards before the big day. (if the big day happens that is as we know it) Christmas will we are informed by the powers that be somewhat different this year, no realy? So let’s start off with something that is seasonal and I say seasonal because after all it is the end of November and I have already heard THE FAIRY TALE OF NEW YORK about thirty times on the radio (the edited PC version of course) and also seen the crème eggs waiting in their thousands to be placed on shelves on Christmas eve.

I thought to begin maybe we should go back to happier times and look at a British movie from a while ago, (1970) and a film that was a musical setting of a tale penned by Charles Dickens. SCROOGE was an adaption of the authors famous tale from Christmas in Victorian times, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, I know the movie had a mixed reaction when it first went into theatres in the UK and the U.S.A. After all Albert Finney although being a fine actor, is certainly no singer, but I think it actually worked, after all Ebenezer Scrooge would not strike me as a person who would want to burst into song and make a pleasant job of it, Finney mainly spoke the lyrics, and I have to say for the most part it was rather effective and dare I say it endearing in a way. Released in 1970 SCROOGE was the work of Leslie Bricusse who wrote the book and lyrics and co-wrote the music with composer Ian Fraser.  music. The movie also starred Alec Guinness, Kenneth More, Edith Evans, Roy Kinnear and a number of familiar British actors.  Finney won Best Actor at the Golden Globes in 1971, for his portrayal of the irascible Scrooge. And the film became a firm favourite after its initial release, which is shown almost every year at Christmas time on TV all around the world. 

The soundtrack was issued at the time of the film’s release in a gatefold edition, on the Columbia label and contained the now familiar numbers such as I HATE PEOPLE, THANKYOU VERY MUCH, I LIKE LIFE, YOU, YOU, SEE THE PHANTOMS etc. Ok I must admit I like it and it is a bit of a tradition that in my house it is mandatory that we sit and watch this every year, normally Christmas Eve, no if’s, buts or whatever’s. It is I think a feel-good film because we all know that old Ebenezer will come good in the end. It’s a funny thing that SCROOGE was committed to film first and then was adapted for the stage, it opened in 1992 in Birmingham with Anthony Newley in the title role, and later moved to London’s West End, the supporting cast was strong in the form of Jon Pertwee, Stratford Johns, and Tom Watt.

The show was revived in 2012 with the legendary entertainer Tommy Steele taking the lead, bringing his own style and persona to the role of the bitter Ebenezer Scrooge. Like another Charles Dickens novel that was turned into a musical OLIVER. SCROOGE has taken its place in British film and musical stage show history. 

Ok from a musical we head back to the film scores that have been released recently, and as I hinted in the opening of this article we are spoilt for choice. THE BOY IN THE SNOW I think contains a highly atmospheric score, it maybe not the most grandiose work, but it has its moments, the composer Philip Eisenfeldt, has crafted a tense yet melodically affecting score, in which we are treated to mesmerising pieces and dark rich passages that work so well together, the differing styles complimenting and supporting each other throughout.  The composer utilises to maximum effect slight choral nuances that are underlined by woods and laced with subtle string performances, it is a score that one will sit and listen to and before one realises it it’s over, but this is because it is so effective, not only as a score but as music to be savoured and appreciated away from any storyline or imagery. It is one I recommend you take a listen to.

Like Philip Eisenfeldt composer Patrick Kirst is a new name for me. His latest work BREAKING SURFACE is an intensely apprehensive soundtrack. The music creating tension and foreboding and purveying a sense of claustrophobia and fear. But it is a score that also has its less edgy moments, and I would suggest the digital platforms to investigate these. 

THE DESCENDANTS is a TV movie from the Disney stable, with music by Canadian born Actor and composer David Lawrence, all I am going to say is WOW.. I love this soundtrack, the score is just crammed full of beautiful thematic material, and if I was asked to say who this composers style is similar to I would have to drop in names such as James Horner, John Williams and John Debney, there is so much rich melodious content within this fully symphonic wildly romantic and dramatic work. I have to comment and say this is at the top of my list of the late November releases, there is a plethora of musical notions within the soundtrack that are both fearsome and magical, it is overflowing with an abundance of haunting musical poems that are delicate, intricate and above all enriching, inspiring and entertaining. The story is set twenty years after Belle and the Beast have married, and have become King and Queen of the United States of AURADON, after they became King and Queen they banished all villains to the isle of the lost, which is a slum that has a barrier around it where all magic is forbidden.

Belle and The Beast  have a son Ben, who decides that he wants to allow four children from the isle of the lost to be given the chance to live in Auradon, and he chooses, the son of Cruella de Ville Carlos, Evie the daughter of the Evil Queen Mal the daughter of Maleficent and the son of Jafar Jay. Unbeknown to Ben and his parents, Maleficent has instructed the four offspring to steal the fairy Godmothers wand so that she can release the barrier on magic around the isle and take control of Aura. Lawrence’s powerful and romantically laced score aids the movie greatly and is an important and vital part of its storyline.

An animated feature next, DRAGON RIDER, in which we follow a young silver dragon who teams up with a mountain spirit and an orphaned boy on a journey through the Himalayas in search for the Rim of Heaven. The score is by composer Stefan Maria Schneider who worked on HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON as an orchestrator for John Powell. And one can certainly hear certain little quirks of orchestration within DRAGON RIDER that we also heard in the Powell score. This is a great little score, I say little mainly because many of the cues are rather brief as in less than a minute in duration, I think the longest cue is around three minutes, which is entitled TEMPLE OF THE DRAGON RIDER that has a content that ranges from apprehensive, dramatic and action led to downbeat and slightly martial, which is certainly no mean feat in a relatively short amount of time, The thing I like about this score is it never becomes boring, it is go, go, go, but also the composer infuses a mischievous air into the proceedings, that keeps it fresh, vibrant and robust. The score is as far as I can make out mainly symphonic, with maybe a few electronic passages which are mainly for enhancement and support. Strings and brass with underlying percussive support are the main stay of the work, plus the composer enlists chorale support at times. It’s definitely worth a listen.

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (29 September 1864 – 31 December 1936) was a Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, philosopher, professor of Greek and Classics, and later rector at the University of Salamanca. And it is he who is the subject of the documentary PALABRAS PARA UN FIN DEL MUNDO (WORDS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD).  His major philosophical essay was The Tragic Sense of Life (1912), and his most famous novel was Abel Sánchez: The History of a Passion (1917), a modern account of the Cain and Abel story. The music for the documentary is by accomplished composer Ivan Palomares, one only has to mention this Maestro’s name or see it on the credits of a movie etc, to know that this will be a work that will be innovative, inventive and affecting.

This is a subtle work, sparsely scored with delicate touches and fleeting sounds which at times drift into soundscape rather than what we as collectors refer to as musical score, although it is in no way un-musical or unmelodic. The work is a mix of both electronic and conventional instrumentation, with piano featuring throughout, the composer also utilises cello for solo performances which adds a touch of melancholy and deeper emotion to the work. Released on Movie Score Media. As I have already said the recent batch of releases have excelled in quantity, but maybe the quality is not as high as it could have been, it’s a sorry state when we get something in the region of thirty plus releases of soundtracks and more than half of these are quite flat in the quality and entertainment departments, but as I always say this is my own personal opinion, and I always recommend that you check out as many new releases as you are able to via digital platforms, it’s a good way to try before you buy, if that is a CD release is available. So that is why invariably I try and look for and include something that is vintage or has been issued before in the past decade that maybe collectors could have overlooked, and in these times of more and more records as in vinyl making a return some soundtracks are now being given an LP format release which for many is welcomed news.

The soundtrack for the Italian made western THE BOUNTY HUNTERS (INDIO BLACK/ADIOS SABATA) for example, this fantastically fun spaghetti score has long been a favourite of mine and many others, Bruno Nicolai penning a Morricone style soundtrack for the Yul Brynner gimmicky and quirky western tale. Brynner taking on the central role of Sabata and making it his own and a portrayal of an already established character that had originally hit the screens in the form of Lee Van Cleef, the score by Nicolai is I suppose and I hope that you will agree with me on this one Text book Italian western, the score was never released on vinyl, its first full release was on compact disc when Hillside/GDM records released it, at the same time the label also issued the SABATA and THE RETURN OF SABATA  soundtracks on another compact disc, since then the scores have all been re-issued some with extra tracks by other labels. Which has been the norm with Italian scores of all genres, we get what we think is the complete soundtrack released but then we get some months later an expanded version, and after this a definitive edition, and now we are getting vinyl releases of the same scores all over again.

So is this record companies just making collectors shell out again and again or are these really worth having, the latter I fear is not the answer in my opinion, but I suppose that if the record companies re-issue material again and again and the collectors buy them well it’s the collectors choice isn’t it.

I have always prescribed to the saying LESS IS MORE and I for one am happy with soundtracks that I have and have never seen the need to go out and get a copy of a score I already have because a label has re-issued it with two minutes of extra music or a suite or karaoke version of a track on it,  to be honest these karaoke versions or suites are a con, most of them being put together at the labels mastering stage by engineers or producers and none of them being used in the original soundtrack or having anything to do with the composer of the score.

However, I am pleased to see scores such as THE BOUNTY HUNTERS on vinyl, (Dagored records) in orange as well as being a two LP set. SABATA was of course originally issued on LP record at first on the Japanese UA label then later came an American release. It’s great to hold a new album again, there is just something about the feeling and the excitement of placing the record on the deck and lowering the stylus onto it. Maybe more will see the light of day very soon, although saying this the renewed interest in vinyl is surging forward and outstripping the sale of cd’s and downloads in recent months. Maybe its something to do with lockdown, because people need feel good things and vinyl is certainly that. It would be great if record companies did re-issue a lot of spaghetti westerns onto LP record, as long as they use the original art work that is, the Italian western soundtrack was renowned for its stunning art work, and I would be made up to see it all again in sealed releases.

So, to a few more recent titles, UNSEEN is an accomplished and strangely attractive score composed by Eloi Ragot. It is dark and chilling in places and has to it a fearsome and somewhat uneasy style that establishes an even more unsettling mood at times.  But there are a number of different atmospheres and musical colours and textures contained within the soundtrack, these range from the dark and unsure to the more romantic and even the melancholy and reassuring. The composer utilising piano, strings and cello in key points to purvey a sound that is either sad or hopeful. It is an enjoyable soundtrack, and one that is both varied and haunting.

 UNEARTH by Jane Saunders is too an interesting release, I would not say interesting for melodic reasons, but for the use of atmospherics and for also creating textured moods and for the fashioning of musical passages that are thickly compelling in a macabre kind of way, the score seems to convey to the listener a tormented persona, but also has to it in certain areas a subtle and even attractive sound. Both UNSEEN and UNEARTH are available on digital platforms.   

Other titles that are worth a listen include, GATHER by Michael A Levine, DEMONS SOULS (VG) by Shunsuke Kida, OUTBACK by Justin Bell, Mark Mothersbaugh’s quite epic but quirky sounding THE CROODS A NEW AGE proving that he is such an underatted composer once again, LA CINTA DE ALEX by Antonio Escobar and Martin Phipps’s excellent score for THE CROWN -SEASON FOUR. See you next time in soundtrack supplement thirty.